Nobel Laureate in Literature, Poet, Translator, and Essayist
Seamus Heaney was born in 1939, the eldest of nine children, to Margaret and Patrick Heaney, at the family farm, Mossbawn, about 30 miles northwest of Belfast in County Derry. He attended the local school at Anahorish until 1951, then transferred to St. Columb’s College, a boarding school in Derry. In 1957 he enrolled at Queen's University, Belfast, where he took a first in English in 1961. The next year he gained a postgraduate teacher’s diploma at St. Joseph's College in Belfast, and in 1963 was appointed as a lecturer in English at the same school.
While at Queen’s he began to write, publishing work in the university magazines under the pseudonym Incertus. Later, along with Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, and others, he joined a poetry workshop under the guidance of Philip Hobsbaum. In 1965, in connection with the Belfast Festival, he published Eleven Poems. In August of 1965 he married Marie Devlin. The following year he became a lecturer in modern English literature at Queen's University, Belfast, his first son Michael was born, and Faber and Faber published Death of a Naturalist. This volume earned him the E.C. Gregory Award, the Cholmondeley Award in 1967, the Somerset Maugham Award in 1968, and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, also in 1968. Christopher, his second son, was born in 1968.
His next volume, Door into the Dark, was published in 1969 and became the Poetry Book Society Choice for that year. In 1970-71 he was a guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. He returned to Northern Ireland in 1971, and in 1972 he resigned his lectureship at Queen’s, moved his family to Glanmore, in County Wicklow, and published Wintering Out. In 1973 his daughter, Catherine Ann, was born. During this year he also received the Denis Devlin Award and the Writer in Residence Award from the American Irish Foundation. In 1975 North was published, winning the E.M. Forster Award and the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize. During these years at Glanmore, Heaney also gave many readings in the United States and England and edited two poetry anthologies.
In 1975 Heaney began teaching at Carysfort College in Dublin. In 1976 the family moved to Sandymount, in Dublin, and Heaney became Department Head at Carysfort. In 1979 he published Field Work, and in 1980, Selected Poems and Preoccupations: Selected Prose. In 1981 he gave up his post at Carysfort to become a visiting professor at Harvard. In 1982 he won the Bennett Award, and Queen's University in Belfast conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. He joined Field Day Theatre Company as a director along with Brian Friel and others in 1983. Station Island, his first collection in five years, was published in 1984. During that year he was elected the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard, and Open University awarded him an honorary degree. Also in 1984 his mother, Margaret Kathleen, died. The Haw Lantern, published in 1987, contains a brilliant sonnet sequence memorializing her. Heaney's father, Patrick, died in 1986 and Heaney's collection, Seeing Things, published in 1991, contains many poems for his father. Between 1989 and 1994 Heaney was Professor of Poetry at Oxford. The lectures he delivered there were published in 1995 as The Redress of Poetry, which was followed in 1996 by The Spirit Level, a collection of poems. He also translated Sophocles Philoctetes which was produced by Field Day in 1990 under the title The Cure at Troy. From 1996-2006, Mr. Heaney was the Ralph Waldo Emerson Writer-in-Residence at Harvard University. In 2012 he was awarded The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry's 2012 Lifetime Recognition Award.
Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. Subsequent publications include a translation of Beowulf (2000), Diary of One Who Vanished (2000), Opened Ground (1998), and Electric Light (2001). His latest collection of essays is Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001. More recently, Mr. Heaney has translated The Burial at Thebes — a Version of Sophocles' Antigone (November 2004, FSG). In this new translation, commissioned by Ireland's renowned Abbey Theatre to commemorate its centenary, Seamus Heaney exposes the darkness and the humanity in Sophocles' masterpiece, and inks it with his own modern and masterly touch. In May 2006, which was the 40th anniversary of his first collection, Death of a Naturalist, his collection of poetry, District and Circle, was published by FSG and went on to win the T.S. Elliot Prize in Britain. In 2009 it was named as one of the “100 Best Books of the Decade” by The Times (London). In 2008 Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O’Driscoll was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, who also published Seamus Heaney’s translations of the late medieval Scots poet Robert Henryson. His most recent collection of poetry Human Chain appeared in 2010.
"“Art as the wizardry of style, on the one hand, and art as the personal and public expression, on the other. Not many can fuse the two nowadays, and no one writing in English does so well as Heaney.”"— Los Angeles Times on Beowulf
"“Anyone who reads poetry has reason to rejoice at living in the age when Seamus Heaney is writing.”"— The New York Times Book Review
"“Arguably the finest poet now writing in English.”"— The New York Times Book Review